§ Baroness Hornsby-Smith
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What representations they have made to the EEC regarding the substantial fuel subsidies granted by certain countries in the Community to the textile, paper-making and cement industries and whether they are aware of the effect on the competitiveness and exports of such industries which has resulted in closures of hundreds of plants.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy (The Earl of Avon)
The Government are aware of the effect of energy costs on the competitiveness of particular industries. We have pressed the Commission to investigate the energy pricing policies and practices of all member states, and this is now in train. The Government are also campaigning, through our recently established Energy Efficiency Office, for an increased awareness of the savings available to industry through improving energy efficiency; and are aiding the development of844WA energy management techniques which can lead to dramatic savings.
Comparisons of international energy prices are difficult: exchange rate movements, for example, can change the picture rapidly. However evidence collected in recent years by the NEDC, CBI and Government, including last month's CBI Survey of European Industrial Energy Prices, indicates that UK energy prices are generally in line with those elesewhere in Europe. Energy costs are not the sole determinant of industrial success—Japan for example faces particularly high energy costs. Nonetheless, Government take seriously industry's concern to enhance its competitiveness and, together with the energy industries, have taken a number of measures in recent years: for example the average level of industrial electricity prices has not increased since April, 1982, while prices in Europe have been rising, and the Electricity Council is recommending an industrial tariff standstill for 1984–85, so that prices will increase only as a result of the normal operation of the fuel price adjustment clause; BGC has also extended the freeze on industrial contract gas renewal prices to April, by which time their prices will have been frozen for two whole years.